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aeromancer

Reading Excuses - 12/24/18 - aeromancer - Self Referential Program (4008)(V,L)

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I was inspired to write this after reading an old Clarke short story collection I picked up in a used bookstore. This contains an unhealthy amount of obscure science references as well as needless amounts of technobabble. And absolutely no computer programs.
I'm looking for feedback on everything if you please, but specifically 1) how well you understood what was going on and what happened and 2) reaction after reading it.
If you've finished and have a few questions, I've helpfully include an iteration sheet to help answer a few of them. Do not look at it until after you've read the short. Seriously, it'll ruin everything. You've been warned.
 
Spoiler

Sorry about this, but this is my insurance against people who just click spoilers open before reading any actual text in the post. (Like me! It's kind of a reflex, given the spoiler-y nature of certain areas of this site.)

Spoiler

The protagonist is referred to as 'X', and Kay and Jay are referred to as K and J respectively.

First iteration:

1930s- Grandparents meet, get married
1980s- X is born
2020  - X travels back in time

Second iteration:

1930s- X kills grandparents
1930s- X meets waitress, gets married
1980s- K is born
1990s- X dies, leaves message to J in Will dated for 2020
2020  - K uses the time machine before J gets X's message.

Third iteration:

1930s- K kills waitress, replaces her, starts waiting
1930s- X kills grandparents
1930s- X meets waitress, who is actually K
1930s- K kills X
1940s+ ?

 

 

Edited by aeromancer
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Well, despite the warning I read this on Christmas. Nothing too bad for me, though I'll agree it doesn't really fit with the season ;-)

Overall, I was mostly confused while reading this. It took more than half the story to land on what was actually going to happen, and then it felt very unfinished at the end. Your spoiler iterations clear some of this up, but it wasn't in the story, so that won't really help while reading it. If you can somehow incorporate it into the story, it might work better.

To your questions:
1) Confused during most of the story. I did understand what happened at the end, but I thought it ended abruptly (and yes, I know it's hard to continue after that point...). It also took a long time to get started, and I feel that space could be better used to explain some of the things I was confused about.
2) I did like the twist, however it came after slogging through a lot of technobabble, so it wasn't as rewarding as it could be. I think if the rest of this was cleaned up, it could be a very interesting story. Time travel has been done a lot, but this had some fresh things in it.


Notes while reading
pg 2: no idea what's going on in the second paragraph.
in fact, most of this page is hard to follow.

pg 3: "but I had to figure out ways to remove the gravitational and electromagnetic constants once they stopped applying.”
--seems like there needs to be something else at the end of this sentence.

pg 3: “I mean, sure I’ll throw you the notes, but good luck with that.”
--luck with what? The sentences seem purposefully vague.

end of pg 4: I was hooked when one guy said he solved time travel, but then they've been blathering on for 3 pages. Starting to lose interest .


pg 5: “My heedless-of-consequences almost-girlfriend is attempting to abuse her relationship with me and my relationship with you to filch your time travel notes, yes."

--what? we haven't heard anything about this until now. This is more interesting that the technobabble, but there's no buildup. Is Dr. C the girlfriend?

pg 6: “I’m going to test the Grandfather Paradox.”
--this is jumping all over te place

pg 10: this seems to have landed on the grandfather paradox as the plot. There's a lot of extra incomprehensible stuff attached to it, though. This could be pared down a lot to make more sense.

pg 11: "It took me two days to get out of the caves."
--I guess he's traveled in time, then.

pg 11: "for losing the present-day bet that they couldn’t."
--there's a lot of these strange, unfinished sentences in the story.

pg 11: "The first was accomplished a slight jab into her"
--awkward sentence

pg 12: "that was caused by the jab."
You could probably just say this outright when it happens.

pg 12: "A dead woman, from cardiac arrest."
--yeesh. He is nuts.

pg 13: “Yes, well.” Kay shrugged. “Sometimes I say things that I don’t really mean, you know? I mean, who pays attention to everything around them?”
--I have no idea what's going on.

pg 15: “No can do.” Kay sighed and sat down next to me. “Sorry, gramps. But that’s a good ol’ heart attack. Or cardiac arrest. But I’d hate to die alone, so I’ll just keep you company.”
--ha, ok, good twist

pg 15: "Grandma was first, and I just took over for her until I could get you. So two down. Two to go.”
--don't know what this means. (Edit: here is a good place to explain some of those iterations...)

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Me and J understood what's going on at about the same time (more or less).

The ending was very abrupt i was expecting some "Back to the future" kind of things.

And the time table in my head more like: 

Spoiler

X go back from 2080 back to 2020 or something like that.

But time is a bit blurred in the story.

And actually i thought that K came from even further in the "real" future. (Guess the thing about "finishing both sides of the family", really flew over my head.)

Edited by Blessed peace
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On 12/24/2018 at 10:43 PM, aeromancer said:

1) how well you understood what was going on and what happened and 2) reaction after reading it.

1: I think I understood to a certain extent.

Spoiler

 

Two scientist were having a conversation over lunch about time travel, then one actually time travels, and runs into his grandchild who is doing the same experiment he was doing proving he had already done it and survived. 

 

2: A little confused and frustrated. That lead me to look at the timeline, which clarified a thing or two, but I still feel a little cheated at the end. I keep feeling like I am missing something. 

Overall, I think the begining was slow and the end rushed. There was too much to the conversation in the begining. It was hard to parse out what theory was related to what evens that happened later. I found myself wanting to rush through that part because I felt like I should know more about the theories and jargon than I did, and that I was stupid and lowly for not knowing. Maybe that is how the narrator would see me. In comparison, the part where he actually time travels feels rushed. 

However, I'm wondering if the time travel part would feel as rushed if the other part also had a fast pace and/or was shorter. What if you opened with the narrator telling the other character he was going to test the Grandfather Paradox? If you don't slow down the time travel part, I think this piece would work shorter than it is. 

I did enjoy the voice. It was a perfect fit for the story. The other character seemed less alive to me, but has potential to be an even more powerful foil if you develop him more.

I am not remembering names at all right now.  Either they didn't seem important to me when reading because the narrator didn't seem to genuinely care about people so I didn't bother remembering the name? J shouldn't be that hard a name to remember. Or maybe it's because it's after midnight, just after the end of Christmas Day...

Speaking of Christmas, you said something in your email about the themes of this clashing with the holidays...well, this is exactly the type of story I needed to read right now. I am no longer thinking about disasters that might have happened on Christmas Eve and I am thinking about time travel, prophecy, and paradox. 

A couple notes while I read: 

"I'd owe them five...bet that they couldn't." There was something missing or off with this line. I'm not sure what, but I didn't understand, and think my lack of understanding is related to something grammatical. 

"And I had begun eaten it" Did you mean eating?

Anyway, this is it for now, but if I think of anything else in the morning, I'll add it. 

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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12 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: “My heedless-of-consequences almost-girlfriend is attempting to abuse her relationship with me and my relationship with you to filch your time travel notes, yes."

--what? we haven't heard anything about this until now. This is more interesting that the technobabble, but there's no buildup. Is Dr. C the girlfriend?

Spoiler

Wait! Was K the girlfriend?

 

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On 12/25/2018 at 11:37 AM, Mandamon said:

Well, despite the warning I read this on Christmas. Nothing too bad for me, though I'll agree it doesn't really fit with the season ;-)

Overall, I was mostly confused while reading this. It took more than half the story to land on what was actually going to happen, and then it felt very unfinished at the end. Your spoiler iterations clear some of this up, but it wasn't in the story, so that won't really help while reading it. If you can somehow incorporate it into the story, it might work better.

I have no idea how to include the iteration loops within the basic plot. I suppose if I expanded the plot I might be able to, but I started the story with just the final twist in mind, so once that got done, I have no idea where to go. That said, it was supposed to evoke kind of an unfinished feel, as it's just a series of three loops within a potential infinite cycle, but I left it too unfinished.

On 12/25/2018 at 11:37 AM, Mandamon said:

To your questions:
1) Confused during most of the story. I did understand what happened at the end, but I thought it ended abruptly (and yes, I know it's hard to continue after that point...). It also took a long time to get started, and I feel that space could be better used to explain some of the things I was confused about.
2) I did like the twist, however it came after slogging through a lot of technobabble, so it wasn't as rewarding as it could be. I think if the rest of this was cleaned up, it could be a very interesting story. Time travel has been done a lot, but this had some fresh things in it.

This is useful, thanks. Just a few notes on your notes.

1) I could have started the time travel aspect straight away, but I didn't want to drop the characterization of the main character, which is what the beginning was for. There might be too much chaff, though.

2) I, um, like technobabble. A lot. Too much, apparently. I suppose I could take away most parts of it, but I'm definitely keeping a reference to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. That said, there were actually a few jokes and foreshadows in some of the techo-babbling.

Also, for the most part I have a searing hatred towards time travel. It rarely, if ever makes sense, and the twist came from a thought line of myself taking the Grandfather Paradox to it's illogical extreme.

On 12/25/2018 at 11:37 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 10: this seems to have landed on the grandfather paradox as the plot. There's a lot of extra incomprehensible stuff attached to it, though. This could be pared down a lot to make more sense.

Seeing this now, it probably shouldn't have taken me 10 pages to do that.

On 12/25/2018 at 11:37 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 12: "A dead woman, from cardiac arrest."
--yeesh. He is nuts.

A literal psychopath, in fact. X is completely amoral and only interested in his personal desires. It was either that or an over-the-top 'for the science' nut.

On 12/25/2018 at 11:37 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 15: "Grandma was first, and I just took over for her until I could get you. So two down. Two to go.”
--don't know what this means. (Edit: here is a good place to explain some of those iterations...)

Ha, so funny thing - K is only familiar with iterations 2 and 3. I suppose I could have a Watcher-type character observe it, and open with the same character, though. There's a thought.

The 'two down, two to go' is a reference to K's grandparents. Whereas X was content with only killing his maternal grandmother, K wanted to kill all 4 of her grandparents. If that wasn't the case, K would have no reason to target X.

 

On 12/25/2018 at 3:51 PM, Blessed peace said:

Me and J understood what's going on at about the same time (more or less).

The ending was very abrupt i was expecting some "Back to the future" kind of things.

That's good. As I mentioned above, I'm not a fan of time travel in general and 'Back to the Future' makes no sense with it's 'disappearing photograph'.

On 12/25/2018 at 3:51 PM, Blessed peace said:

And the time table in my head more like: 

  Hide contents

X go back from 2080 back to 2020 or something like that.

But time is a bit blurred in the story.

And actually i thought that K came from even further in the "real" future. (Guess the thing about "finishing both sides of the family", really flew over my head.)

X mentions the Great Depression to tie down the timeline, but honestly dates don't matter, it was just how it came out my head. And, yes, time is blurred. The focus is travel between times, not the times themselves.

The 'finishing both sides of the family' is a reference to K's grandparents. Whereas X was content with only killing his maternal grandmother, K wanted to kill all 4 of her grandparents. If that wasn't the case, K would have no reason to target X.

 

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

1: I think I understood to a certain extent.

  Hide contents

 

Two scientist were having a conversation over lunch about time travel, then one actually time travels, and runs into his grandchild who is doing the same experiment he was doing proving he had already done it and survived. 

 

2: A little confused and frustrated. That lead me to look at the timeline, which clarified a thing or two, but I still feel a little cheated at the end. I keep feeling like I am missing something. 

1) Yes, yes, yes. More importantly, said grandchild kills him.

2) Sorry. Can you be more clear on what you feel like you're missing? It might be a plot hole, or something I just forgot to address.

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Overall, I think the begining was slow and the end rushed. There was too much to the conversation in the begining. It was hard to parse out what theory was related to what evens that happened later. I found myself wanting to rush through that part because I felt like I should know more about the theories and jargon than I did, and that I was stupid and lowly for not knowing. Maybe that is how the narrator would see me. In comparison, the part where he actually time travels feels rushed. 

Most of them are obscure, two are made up (Azkaban Loops and Harlan's Fork, the latter is a reference to End of Eternity). And looking back, I see I attributed Euclid's Fifth Postulate [Parallel lines can't cross] to Archimedes. (Oops.) Please don't feel bad. The narrator would probably scorn you for not knowing, but the narrator is a psychopath. Please don't take anything he says / thinks seriously.

Time travel was glossed because I kind of hate the stuff and I had no interest in concocting even more gobbledygook than I already was. (It was that or the Time Machine from Wells.) 

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

However, I'm wondering if the time travel part would feel as rushed if the other part also had a fast pace and/or was shorter. What if you opened with the narrator telling the other character he was going to test the Grandfather Paradox? If you don't slow down the time travel part, I think this piece would work shorter than it is. 

Hopefully that's the case, because the only edits I'm really planning are to the beginning and just stripping clean all the technobabble. I wanted this to be around 2500 words - and it ended up being 4000.

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Speaking of Christmas, you said something in your email about the themes of this clashing with the holidays...well, this is exactly the type of story I needed to read right now. I am no longer thinking about disasters that might have happened on Christmas Eve and I am thinking about time travel, prophecy, and paradox. 

Happy to help. If you ever find the need for mind-occupying paradoxes, I have more where this came from.

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:
  Hide contents

Wait! Was K the girlfriend?

 

In iteration 2, K is J's girlfriend (although this is never explicitly mentioned). It iteration 1, no (K doesn't exist.) Although, come to think of it, if X wasn't the originator of the ouroboros loop that his family line seems to be stuck in, (that is, his iteration 1 is not iteration 1 at all, it's iteration n and we have no cause to think that X created the loop) then maybe Dr. C is involved in this loop. (Which would explain a lot...)

I didn't plan that, but that's actually a fantastic idea. Thanks!

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1 hour ago, aeromancer said:

2) Sorry. Can you be more clear on what you feel like you're missing? It might be a plot hole, or something I just forgot to address.

22 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not entirely sure what is missing, otherwise I would've been clearer. 

I'm wondering, Is he dead for real? or is he going to be alive again when it is reversed? Or is it just going to keep going on and on forever?

Maybe not quite knowing the answers to my questions, or not knowing if they can be answered, is leaving me with the sense that the story is incomplete? It's also possible that the answer was buried in the dialogue I was struggling to get and I missed it because it was embedded in too much rapid-fire "technobabble." 

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Overall

It took a while to get there, but I enjoyed this piece. The ending was amusing. The granddaughter had a bit of a different voice, which was nice, although your two scientists at the beginning I couldn't tell apart without dialogue tags. Still, you're getting better!

 

On 12/24/2018 at 7:43 PM, aeromancer said:

1) how well you understood what was going on and what happened

Enough. Being a scientist no doubt helps

On 12/24/2018 at 7:43 PM, aeromancer said:

reaction after reading it.

I was amused by the ending! 

On 12/25/2018 at 8:37 AM, Mandamon said:

--what? we haven't heard anything about this until now. This is more interesting that the technobabble, but there's no buildup. Is Dr. C the girlfriend?

This also confused me

On 12/25/2018 at 9:30 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Overall, I think the begining was slow and the end rushed. There was too much to the conversation in the begining. It was hard to parse out what theory was related to what evens that happened later. I found myself wanting to rush through that part because I felt like I should know more about the theories and jargon than I did, and that I was stupid and lowly for not knowing. Maybe that is how the narrator would see me. In comparison, the part where he actually time travels feels rushed. 

This sums up my feelings perfectly.

 

 

 

As I go

- Prescription alert. Ignore if desired.

 I know we've talked about the 'overwriting' before, but just as an example:

J paused, stopped eating his salad, and took a look at my phone. Then he shrugged and went back to his salad. “Unremarkable.” That was his sole comment. 

Is the original. But I think it would flow a lot better, the whole story, if you cut down the redundancy. So the above turns into:

paused, stopped eating his salad, and looked at my phone. Then he shrugged and went back to his salad.

It tells us all the same information without the two additional sentences, and gives J a curt feeling, so we get some emotion along with the action.

- pg2: I don't think you can use 'statistically significant' like that. It refers to actual statistical models, not regions of space

- 3: this is a lot of info dump/technobabble for so early on. I don't want to read this kind of stuff unless I care about the characters and/or plot, and right now I do not

- page 4: Delta-S was made out of the best men in the field? This is my Marge Simpson growl. 

- Also Dr. C appears to be female so clearly there are, in fact, women in this universe and even in Delta-S

- 6: The way J says 'you're planning on killing a woman' makes it seem like that's a worse crime than killing a man

- I do appreciate the gender correcting across pages 6-7 though

- Hah. I'm highly amused by the ending

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On 12/28/2018 at 11:36 PM, kais said:

 I know we've talked about the 'overwriting' before, but just as an example:

J paused, stopped eating his salad, and took a look at my phone. Then he shrugged and went back to his salad. “Unremarkable.” That was his sole comment. 

Is the original. But I think it would flow a lot better, the whole story, if you cut down the redundancy. So the above turns into:

paused, stopped eating his salad, and looked at my phone. Then he shrugged and went back to his salad.

It tells us all the same information without the two additional sentences, and gives J a curt feeling, so we get some emotion along with the action.

Noted. A lot of overwriting was done in the beginning.

On 12/28/2018 at 11:36 PM, kais said:

- pg2: I don't think you can use 'statistically significant' like that. It refers to actual statistical models, not regions of space

(silent groan)

And that's another mistake. I think I was intending to refer to the collection of various data points caused by the time travel, but that's not specified.

On 12/28/2018 at 11:36 PM, kais said:

- page 4: Delta-S was made out of the best men in the field? This is my Marge Simpson growl. 

- Also Dr. C appears to be female so clearly there are, in fact, women in this universe and even in Delta-S

- 6: The way J says 'you're planning on killing a woman' makes it seem like that's a worse crime than killing a man

J is supposed to be chivalrous, so yes, he would consider killing a woman worse. As for X, I'm not sure I'd call him a chauvinist, but he is the type of person to ignore details like the fact that Delta-S has women working in it. Simply because he doesn't have a reason to care.

On 12/28/2018 at 11:36 PM, kais said:

- I do appreciate the gender correcting across pages 6-7 though

So, here X does care about gender specification because he has a reason to care. J is a bit slow on the uptake.

On 12/28/2018 at 11:36 PM, kais said:

- Hah. I'm highly amused by the ending

Yay!

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Overall I found this story hard to get in to. I definitely agree with @shatteredsmooth's assessment that it began slowly and finished too quickly. I feel like I wasn't really involved in it until page 6 when the two talking finally get around to what X intends to do. I don't really feel like I needed the background information covered in the beginning pages for the rest of the story to make sense. I didn't have a whole lot of problems following what happened, but I also feel like I would have enjoyed it more had I read more about the time-travel adventures. I like the twist ending, it made me smile.

 

As I go: 

 

-- I am also picking up on some of the gender issues that @kais did, and I'm not sure I would have finished the story had I been reading this elsewhere because of them. To me, they make the piece feel hostile and out-of-touch.

-- A lot of this dialogue uses demonstrative pronouns in place of actual specificity in what's being said. I think it goes a bit towards what @kais was saying about general wordiness, but too many words like that in  close proximity makes me confused as I read.

-- Be careful with using italics for emphasis. We all do it, and it's tough nowadays with the way we chat informally on the internet, but in more formal prose (such as writing like this), italics for emphasis should be used pretty sparingly.  I feel like every other sentence out of these two guys has at least one italicized word in it and that's left me feeling fatigued not even 5 pages in.

-- "I've decided to test the grandfather paradox" -- this would be a fantastic opening line and would immediately capture my interest. Plus, it leads directly into the meat of the story and I think the discussion about the killings would do just as well as the beginning technobabble to convey character and setting. 

 -- ...Depending on how far you'd gone with your plan before the intended victim died, you absolutely could be convicted of trying to kill someone who's already dead. Additionally, the right to reproduce is considered a fundamental right under the Constitution and forcing someone to take contraceptives unwilling actually is a pretty big deal. The fact that contraceptives exist and people use them willingly on their own is immaterial to the illegality of the act. I didn't think a whole lot of this guy to begin with but now I'm wondering how he's escaped being imprisoned as long as he apparently has. He doesn't seem very smart to me. 

-- The actual time travel feels a bit hastily written to me. I would have liked to experience a bit more of his actions as they happened, rather than read about them in summarized hindsight.

-- I did lol at the twist. 

 

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On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

-- I am also picking up on some of the gender issues that @kais did, and I'm not sure I would have finished the story had I been reading this elsewhere because of them. To me, they make the piece feel hostile and out-of-touch.

...And the fact that X is plotting the cold blooded murder of a family member doesn't? I mean, sure I get that turn-offs exist, I've chucked books three pages in when they left bad tastes in my mouth. The main character isn't even a chauvinist, he's just a horrible person, and he's a horrible person because of his abject disregard for human life, not his abject disregard for human gender (although, to be fair, that's not one of his redeeming qualities). I get that you might not want to read through things I write, and I'd encourage you not to if you actually object to things I write and bring it directly to my attention, this just feels weird to have a psychopath called out for being a chauvinist.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

 -- ...Depending on how far you'd gone with your plan before the intended victim died, you absolutely could be convicted of trying to kill someone who's already dead. 

Not exactly. See, what you're referring is plotting to kill someone who you think is alive. However, currently U.S. law does not recognize time travel as valid. (Because it's impossible.) Plotting to kill someone who is already dead is impossible, therefore, not illegal. Technically. I mean, in iteration 2, he'd be guilty of murder, but that J wouldn't be an accessory.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

Additionally, the right to reproduce is considered a fundamental right under the Constitution

Unfortunately, you aren't right about this either. See the Supreme Court Case Buck v. Bell (1927), which was decided 8-1 in favor of compulsory serialization for the intellectually disabled. I'm not making this up, though I wish I was. (This was technically a ruling in favor of a State's right to create such laws, rather than supporting the law itself.) In other words, the right to reproduce is not guaranteed by the Constitution. And this country used to be a lot scarier of a place. (Most of the statures this decision helped have been since  changed locally by the states, thankfully. This decision can be overturned with a 9-0 vote, of course.)

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

The fact that contraceptives exist and people use them willingly on their own is immaterial to the illegality of the act.

This part is true.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

I didn't think a whole lot of this guy to begin with but now I'm wondering how he's escaped being imprisoned as long as he apparently has. He doesn't seem very smart to me. 

There's a difference between doing illegal things and getting caught doing illegal things.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

-- The actual time travel feels a bit hastily written to me. I would have liked to experience a bit more of his actions as they happened, rather than read about them in summarized hindsight.

This is because I hate time travel. If I did, it either be an H.G. Wells time machine clone or an even worse word salad than the opening conversation.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

-- I did lol at the twist. 

Glad for that.

On 1/3/2019 at 5:11 PM, industrialistDragon said:

Overall I found this story hard to get in to. I definitely agree with @shatteredsmooth's assessment that it began slowly and finished too quickly. I feel like I wasn't really involved in it until page 6 when the two talking finally get around to what X intends to do. I don't really feel like I needed the background information covered in the beginning pages for the rest of the story to make sense. I didn't have a whole lot of problems following what happened, but I also feel like I would have enjoyed it more had I read more about the time-travel adventures. I like the twist ending, it made me smile.

Thank you for the feedback, despite some of the issues I have with it. I might just do a cut to page 6, as you recommend. And, if you had read more time travel, I'm not even sure you would have enjoyed it more. This is kind of satire to them.

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15 hours ago, aeromancer said:

See, what you're referring is plotting to kill someone who you think is alive.

What I am talking about is the concept of attempt. Attempt only requires intent to commit a crime, completing a substantial step towards that crime, and then failing to accomplish the crime. Because time travel is involved, it is impossible to prosecute X, I agree; however, I meant this more in a general and somewhat lighthearted sense.  

 

15 hours ago, aeromancer said:

See the Supreme Court Case Buck v. Bell (1927)

The fact that the thoroughly discredited Bell has never been formally overturned doesn't change either the nature of the right of procreation or the standards that apply to it. See Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942), where the court stated that the right of procreation is considered fundamental under the Constitution and thus that any statutes restricting that right should be examined using strict scrutiny.

From the case:

"We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race. he power to sterilize, if exercised, may have subtle, far-reaching and devastating effects. In evil or reckless hands it can cause races of types which are inimical to the dominant group to wither and disappear. There is no redemption for the individual whom the law touches. Any experiment the state conducts is to his irreparable injury. He is forever deprived of a basic liberty." 

 Skinner undermines Bell's rationale and strongly distinguishes Bell, suggesting it is only tenable in extreme circumstances.  Forced sterilization for people with disabilities has a long and fraught history, and many of the statutes reflect a profound level of discrimination. They are incredibly controversial and, as you mentioned, increasingly being overturned entirely. Again, the fact that the laws exist does not change the nature of the right. Additionally I believe my point still stands that the forced sterilization being discussed would in fact be much more of an issue than the character makes it out to be. 

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4 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Additionally I believe my point still stands that the forced sterilization being discussed would in fact be much more of an issue than the character makes it out to be. 

Yes, forced sterilization is a much greater deal than X makes it out to be.  I do not disagree with that. However, X is a psychopath, so I ask you take that into consideration when he says things like that. Part of the point of X saying that was to demonstrate his moral integrity, or more specifically, his complete lack of it.

 

Now for the rest. You may ask why I'm doing this and the short answer is because I haven't really had a good legal argument in a while so I find it hard to resist. I would ask you to please understand that nothing from what I say from now on is germane to my piece and rather is just rhetoric on my part. Also, none of it is personally directed against nor necessarily my personal opinion, I would happily play devil's advocate under most circumstances.

4 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The fact that the thoroughly discredited Bell has never been formally overturned doesn't change either the nature of the right of procreation or the standards that apply to it. See Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942), where the court stated that the right of procreation is considered fundamental under the Constitution and thus that any statutes restricting that right should be examined using strict scrutiny.

From the case:

"We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race. he power to sterilize, if exercised, may have subtle, far-reaching and devastating effects. In evil or reckless hands it can cause races of types which are inimical to the dominant group to wither and disappear. There is no redemption for the individual whom the law touches. Any experiment the state conducts is to his irreparable injury. He is forever deprived of a basic liberty." 

 Skinner undermines Bell's rationale and strongly distinguishes Bell, suggesting it is only tenable in extreme circumstances.  Forced sterilization for people with disabilities has a long and fraught history, and many of the statutes reflect a profound level of discrimination.

The fact that Bell has never been overturned says a lot about the nature of the right to procreation, namely that it is a state-held power, presumably under the 10th Amendment. That is to say, since Bell upheld the right of a state to make such a law it shows such a right is neither enshrined in the Constitution, nor any of the Amendments at the time. Skinner, the case you quoted uses the 14th Amendment (specifically the equal protection clause), which was passed in 1868, thus the 1927 ruling was aware of it at the time and passed their judgement within their understanding of it. It addition, the court did not explicitly state that the right to procreation is considered fundamental under the Constitution, and an argument could be made that from the fact they needed to use the 14th Amendment, which only protects the rights of the people to be tried under law equally, that must mean there is no other, stronger stature that would have enshrined reproductive rights. I find your quote humorous to say the least, because every part of that quote, except for the second sentence, can also be used to refer to several other punishments, up to and including the death sentence, which currently seems to be thought of as a state-held power. Now, the death sentence's legal status in US law is far beyond the scope of what I wished to get into, but the fact remains that just because a power contains 'far-reaching and devastating effects', or that '[t]here is no redemption for the individual whom the law touches', or even if the subject is 'forever deprived of a basic liberty', that does not mean the State does not have that power to exercise in extreme case, in means that the State must be meticulous in using said power. Indeed, Skinner does suggest Bell is only tenable under extreme circumstances, especially since the 14th requires the punishment to be distributed equally, and there is nothing within Skinner that agrees with the logic that Bell is founded on.

However, Skinner is only a decision on an aspect of the case, namely that Oklahoma was not permitted to carry out forced sterilization because that punishment was not applied equally, namely that Oklahoma would never use it in the event of a white-collar crime of equal magnitude. (And, as I have said previously, a logical structure can be created where this would support the idea that the state has the power to force sterilization.) Therefore, despite Skinner being unanimous, as well as ruling against force sterilization, it does actually have a significant bearing upon the the core of the Bell ruling due to the 'narrow degree' of its rule. To use a contemporary (and somewhat controversial) example, perhaps consider Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, not because they considered the them to be protected under the 1st Amendment, but rather because they felt that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted inappropriately for an anti-discrimination commission (by comparing Masterpiece Cakeshop to slave-owning, among other things) and thus did not retain the right to prosecute. Now, should Skinner be considered the end-all for eugenics, perhaps Masterpiece should be the end-all for free speech, but I would argue with both the assumption and the comparison. I merely bring it up to prove that not all aspects of a decision correlate with all the legal statures involved. (The jury is, almost quite literally, still out on whether the 1st Amendment would work under the circumstances of Masterpiece had the Commission not acted inappropriately, but similar to the argument I keep using, one can argue that from the lack on invocation of the 1st Amendment under these circumstances, the 1st Amendment cannot be invoked. Indeed, such can be discerned from Justice Kennedy's statements. But I am getting off topic.) 

In any event, the quote you used was from Justice Douglas. I shall continue were you left off.

"We mention these matters not to reexamine the scope of the police power of the States. We advert to them merely in emphasis of our view that strict scrutiny of the classification which a State makes in a sterilization law is essential, lest unwittingly, or otherwise, invidious discriminations are made against groups or types of individuals in violation of the constitutional guaranty of just and equal laws."

Or, in other words, the right to sterilize is a power given to the states (ergo the right to procreation is not sanctified under the Constitution), but the States are advised to kindly refrain from abusing their power in horrible ways, less they suffer the wrath of the Supreme Court for doing so.

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You may think you are engaging in debate, but what you are doing is called sealioning and I will not be part of it. I will not explain to you settled caselaw you clearly have neither read nor understood. That is not my job, and I do not owe you that time or effort simply because you claim to enjoy a "debate" wherein you have repeatedly implied I was stupid and ignorant. This is off-topic and I will not participate in it any longer. 

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I'm always intrigued to read one of your stories. I see there is some 'traffic' above, but I'll go back a read the comments after I've read the story.

Page 1 - "J’s logic trains were second only to my own" - Second in what? Speed? Accuracy? There's no qualifier to explain how they are second. Okay, I'm always up for a time travel story. The bar is pretty high.

Page 2 - Okay, whatever. I started out trying to follow what they were talking about, but quickly stopped trying to have it make sense and just read the words. That's not meant as a dig, it sounds semi-plausible enough for me to accept that they know what they're talking about, even if I don't.

Page 3 - "Less headaches" - Fewer headaches. Yeah, okay. M/C a riding really high on the smug curve now, and that's not an attractive quality in terms of rooting for a character. Also, at almost 20% of the way in the story, I'm now sure what it's about. What is the plot, the conflict, the M/C's goal?

Page 4 - Ugh. he just got even more smug. Now I'm hoping to see him fair, painfully, which may be the point. The flavour of the sandwich? "The energy consumption would be even worse under those circumstances" - This doesn't ring true as something s scientist would say. I get that energy consumption can be a problem, but it's not really bad, surely it's just higher than desirable.

Page 5 - "to filch your time travel notes" - Lol, I like that line.

Page 6 - "I’m going to test..." - I feel like it's really quite late in the story to be fed the 'inciting' incident (not really the right term, but...). I feel like the five plus pages before could be streamlined to get to this reveal sooner. "Grandmother" - Gaaaaah... Okay, I think maybe I see the logic here on a scientific level, but as the basis of a fictional story, I don't think this is justifiable. For me, it's not about whether the science is sufficiently rigorous (Is the argument that, if he killed his grandfather, his grandmother might still have conceived him by other means? That seems tenuous to me. Maybe that's not it.), it's about the superficial headline message that such an approach sends.

Page 7 - "It’s no different from slipping someone a contraceptive" - Eh? No, I'm done.

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Something to add that I didn't cover and should have in my notes (since it was the first thing I noticed!), I thought this was solidly your best reading piece to date (that I've read) in terms of style, flow, pacing and just general readability. I thought the characters were the most believable and identifiable (as opposed to identifiable with). While I in no way followable to the technobabble (more on which below), I believed that the characters understood it: thus it was convincing. Also, I disliked the m/c sufficiently to stop reading, so you thoroughly convinced me of his unlike-ability / psychosis :) 

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